Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Thin Grey Line



If you Google the phrase "The Thin Grey Line", you will get many pages of discrete references. Some are about internet plagiarism, or New Orlean's levees, the Confederate Army or even song lyrics.


I have a new meaning for it, however, and it is the line that appears atop my head when I am late going to the hairdresser for my monthly cut 'n color.
When I was young, I used to sneer at the "older" women friends of my parents who dyed their hair. "It's ridiculous", I'd say, "she is obviously over 50, why doesn't she just accept her age?" "Salt and pepper hair is beautiful", I'd aver, and say "When I am old, I won't dye my hair; it looks too fake!"

Well, now that I have attained that certain age, I must admit I have been having my hair colored for about 12 years. The first motivation was hair with no shine; hair that was kinkishly uncontrollable as it began turning gray. I had always owned a lustrous mane of long, dark hair, rich with red and mahogany highlights. At about age 53 or so, it began to change and soon it was shot through with gray strands which refused to lie down or curl the way it ought to. I tried coloring it at home, but the monocolor result was what I had always hated about the fake-looking color of most dye jobs. It did help to manage the uncontrollable gray strands, though, so I spoke to my hairdresser about it. He said the only way to achieve shiny hair again was through coloring, done professionally so as to prevent that monocolor look (and to feather his nest, of course). So began my 12+ year saga of monthly hair-color sessions, which drain my purse while enlarging my psyche.

I have been mulling over the possibility of going gray, but will I be able to live through the growing-out period? I can't stand the thought of having 2-3 inches of dull gray followed by 4-5 inches of shiny brown. One possible solution is to cut nearly all of it off and then let it grow in with the natural color. Could I stand to be nearly bald? I am not the type for a pixie cut; you have to be impossibly cute to pull that off at any age. The back of my head is nearly flat, so that is not something I wish to present to the world if I can help it. Maybe I should have it cut off now, so that while it grows out I can wear knitted hats all winter and no one would be the wiser. Or maybe I should wait until the summer and wear straw sun hats to match my clothes.

When I was a child, my mom used to talk occasionally about women who were "mutton dressed up like lamb". I got the feeling that it was a condition to be avoided at all costs; that some women just didn't know when they were past their prime, and so they continued to dress and act as if they were still young, thin and hot. God forbid I should ever be like that.

Have you ever dyed your hair?
Would you dye it when you start turning gray?
Is there an age at which you would stop dying it?


40 comments:

Peter said...

Those questions sound like they were aimed at your female readers Judy, as far as I know most men don't dye their hair or worry overly about turning gray, more about the rate of fallout !!

Greg Finnegan said...

Well, Judy, there's another alternative. Once you shave it off, you can do what some men do: get a hairpiece. They can get it black and shiny with highlights of red and gold, if you wish. 'Course then, somewhere in Wisconsin, there will be a black Angus cow with a lovely black pelt with highlights of red and gold and a bare patch up high on the left rump. And you won't go so much for the salad bar any more as you will graze.

Mel said...

I stopped dying my hair last spring after aboiut 15+ years. I am only 45 and its a family trait to go gray early. I was just tired of it, and I guess I am just not as vain as I used to be. Its ok I guess, its looking better now but about 6 months ago it really looked bad. So far I havent been tempted to dye it again. We shall see LOL

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I'm 31 and I've already got some gray, so Miss Clairol and I are good friends.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Hi Judy..taking a break from my letters assignment...No, I have never dyed my hair...I'm not big on changes and I always felt if I ever started to do that I'd have to become a slave to the process...and luckily, I like my hair color just the way it is...I don't have very much gray in my hair...my hair is very much like my father's was in that respect...my siblings..well, my one sister and brother both are very gray, almost white, and prematurely so...Robin, my sister who died last February had quite a bit of gray, but it was salt & pepper, sort of...
If I were you, I would cut it off now and wear lots of hats so by the spring it would all have grown out...And if you just hate it, you can start dying it again before the summer! Just an idea...going along with your thoughts...

ET said...

Judy,
When I was young I felt about the same as you did in your youth about people hiding their gray hair.
Now, if they have hair at all, I envy them.
Eddie

Star said...

I cannot imagine that I will ever stop getting my hair dyes. Mine started graing in my 30.s, much as my mother's had. She just let it happen. I wasn't ready. I'm still not. I don't think I will ever be. Plus I like my hair a little longer and I don't think long gray hair is attractive. Some women look great gray or silver. I don't think I am one of them.

Duke_of_Earle said...

No comment.

John

melinama said...

I started going grey in my 30s and did color my hair. I did it myself because I absolutely could not bear spending the money - or the time - to have it done professionally. I started being very dissatisfied with the whole process in my early 40s - it was so hard to keep up with the thin grey line, and as you say, home jobs look pretty bad, and I didn't like the mess of it, and it didn't go with my self-image as a non-vain no-nonsense person. But it IS very hard to stop. I did actually go to a hairdresser to have my hair died back grey again (with streaks of black cause that's what I've actually got) but it was not successful, it turned kind of yellowish. In publicity pictures for my band I can see the color line descend through the months! Now I'm really glad it's over, and I feel good about it, and I think my hair is healthier and shinier than when I was coloring it.

I DO think our culture is hard-wired to see grey-headed people as older than people with color on their heads - even if the reverse is the case - but I don't care any more. This is me, I'm dealing with it and everybody else can, too.

colleen said...

I was once addicted to perms (the back of my head is flat too), but I got over that. I got a large white streak in my hair when I was 13 and tried dying that but it wouldn't take.

I haven't needed to die it yet...but it's starting to go around my temples. I can stand that. I probably won't dye it because I think I'm just too lazy to keep up with it. I've noticed some of my friends actually look good with silver hair.

mar said...

I started about 5 years ago because of gray hair... My hair grows very quickly so in order to look fine I would have to dye it every TWO WEEKS (like my younger sister,42 does), which I think it is too much ( for the own wallet and the poor hair) ,so I try to make it last a bit longer. I have always done it at home and I am thankful nowadays the cosmetic industry has wonderful easy-to-apply products, no dripping and no mess.
My neighbor is 62 and looks great with her bob and very gray hair. But I cannot see myself with gray hair...yet. Let's talk about it in a few more years! Very interesting post, Judy! I liked it very much.

Anonymous said...

I always say that I'm not going to color my hair when it goes gray, but let is grow really long and do fancy things with it. In reality, however, who knows! I think its one of those things you don't know how you'll react to until you actually have to react!


Kestrel

srp said...

I have been dying my hair since college. Yes, I hated my dull brown with red highlights. So I went black. Had black hair for about ten years. Then since my idiot ex-husband loved blondes and I wasn't one, I tried that on my own. Disaster of the tie-dyed variety. Finally I let the hair dresser do the blonde thing, more of the "very dense highlighting". That lasted almost ten years. Then a few years ago I started to try and see what my natural color was. I really had forgotten. By this time it was more than salt and peppery around the face and still nauseous brown but darker than when I was young, in the back. I finally found a hair dresser here who figured out the right color and how to do it. She also figured out the best cut and where to help with the thin areas and where to thin the thick ones. Now, I go about once every three months when I start seeing that long grey line. Maybe someday I'll go natural but as long as it doesn't look fake, why not enjoy.

My mom has very thin hair and she has worn a wig as long as I can remember. She has her wigs with variable amounts of gray in them so they look very natural. Someday she will have to get a white one although her hair, even at 77 is not as white as her mother's was.

dorothy rothschild said...

You should ask your hairdresser, but this is what I was once told about how to make the switch. The hairdresser can give you a "weave," which is not the same thing as adding fake hair/braids. It's coloring only selected strands, sort of how highlights are done, as you are letting the rest of the color grow off. It creates an illusion that keeps you from having that swath of grey along your scalp. A friend did this who had been coloring her dark hair a very light blonde, and she was tired of doing it. I suspect it would work for grey as well. I'm hoping so anyway, because at some point I'm going to get tired of coloring my hair, too.

Romani Heart said...

My hair started turning grey after I had my daughter, at the ripe old age of 20. I color it, but only when it starts getting really noticable, and I do it myself. Sometimes, there's no tellin' what color I'll end up with.

road apples said...

ok here's what you do. buy a ticket to the bahamas or some other tropical resort with sand and rum drinks. stay for three months until your grey grows out. when you come back no one will remember what your hair looked like nor will you. or you can do what i do and cut it down as short as possible yourself. tell everyone it's the new you.

lucylocket said...

When my hair started graying, I decided not to color. My children had begun their independent lives, and I wanted to simplify my life. Besides, I knew that if I started coloring, I would have to continue the process. My neighbor, who colored her hair a flaming red, decided to stop coloring. Her hairdresser helped her by stripping the color and cutting her hair short. Her hair is a beautiful white. Mine is simply dull gray, but I don't mind at all.

utenzi said...

Lots of gray in my hair but no chance I'll dye it, Judy. Like Peter said up at the top, as long as I've got hair I'm happy.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful questions and I hope you will share the answers! My hair has been dyed for several years now. My hairdresser uses a demi-permanent color - better than semi-permanent but not the solid characteristics of permanent hair color that requires highlights to be added. I've talked to him about how to go to gray. He suggested the solution be weakened over a period of time and to quit heat-setting the color. I have slightly below shoulder length brown hair. If it had gone to gray/black quickly, I would have been perfectly happy. However it chose to be a dull mix of gray, yellowish gray, brown and black. Now, I can't decide if or when I'm going to my now, "natural" color. I'm thinking it will be painful to look in the mirror at the various stages of color as it grows out. Good luck with your decision.

Christine said...

I was asked once what my natural hair color is. I replied honestly that I haven't seen it since I was forteen years of age.
I couldn't imagine stopping

Inanna said...

I dye my hair since it went really dark after I had Nate. If I can go white, I will, when the time comes, but my hair has to be long first... I want long gray/white hair, not short. So, when I get there, I get there.

Lisa said...

I have mine highlited a little bit, but never actually dyed it.

I'm blonde like my dad, and he never noticeably went gray. He just very slowly changed from blonde to this beautiful shiny silvery color. I'm hoping mine will do that, too. I hope I won't color it, but like you said, lots of times we change our minds when it comes time!

jeni said...

i don't honestly remember the original color of my hair. so (blessings to the l'oreal gods) i won't ever see a gray hair. and i vow to have my hair dyed florescent orange when i die. give my kids one last shock. :)

Jamie Dawn said...

About every two and a half to three months, I get my hair cut and foil highlighted. I like the lighter color streaks in my hair, and the color gives my hair more fullness. I will most likely always color my hair. So far, I don't have gray hair showing up. I will battle that when it comes.

Ananke said...

Oh, yeah, it's been dyed and plenty!!! I started getting WHITE hair in my 30s (I've got light blonde hair) and I've been trying to cover it up ever since! LOL! Like you, I always swore that I'd NEVER color my hair and grow old gracefully. Yeah, until I saw that first white hair, that is. Oh, well, at least when I decide to go natural again, the white will blend in with the blonde. ;-)

Tan Lucy Pez said...

When I was about 14 one of my teachers said to me, "Lucy, you're getting some grey hairs!" I replied, "I know." I KNEW! So I guess it had been happening for a while.

I dyed it for years. When I decided that I hated dying it all the time, I had the beauty shop put in "temporary" rinses every four weeks to cover the grey. It took forever (it seemed) for it to be grown out.

Finally, it was all grown out, and it was white. If I could snap my fingers and have my childhood color back, I would. But I WILL NOT dye it. Too much fuss and bother. But worst of all: The roots show in a week.

At least my white is a nice white. Not yellowed at all.

Ralph's Homespun Headlines said...

You've been to my site so you know - I have about five thin grey lines a top my head. Dying all five has never crossed my mind. Getting them cut off has.
Ralph

Wordnerd said...

A friend of mine once said, "as long as my hands can reach the top of my head, I'm not gray." I started getting gray here and there in my 30's, and nipped it in the Loreal #54 bud right then and there.

brendalove@gmail.com said...

I'll never stop coloring, now that the grey has found me.

Kim said...

I'm 48, and I have a lot of grey in my natural color. I wear my hair short so I decided to let it go "salt and pepper". Granted, at the time it was more pepper than salt, but the grey hairs would not behave! Then a co-worker said, "You know, if you dyed your hair you would look a lot younger. I was only 45 at the time.

Been dying my hair with Loreal ever since because (1)I'm worth it and (2) I don't get a monotone color because my grey and auburn highlights take on the color in a different hue.

Why are grey hairs kinky!

Mildred Garfield said...

I have been dying my hair for years and would not consider stopping any time soon. Not only does it cover the gray, it gives my hair more body for about two weeks. My hair is very fine so I need all the help I can get.

Hope said...

Our hair must be pretty close to the same color. I started out dying it for fun, now vanity. One day I am sure I'll be a little purple hair old lady.

Carolyn said...

Yes, I color. I have some silvery white hairs, especially in the front bangs. My grandma had beautiful silver hair but at 46 I'm not ready for total silver. Besides, I think it's fun to go brunette to redish brown (my real color) to blonde depending on season or mood. It's like putting on makeup- sometimes it boosts your spirits and makes you feel better.

Merle said...

Hi Judy ~~ I am 71 and do not dye my hair. Not that I like gray hair, so I call it silver!!!
Thanks for your comments on my site. I like the Indian Wedding Blessing, and like you think contentment is better than chasing
happiness. I often have fun trying to publish comments.

Sonia said...

I am 63 and I have a lot of grey hair. I started going grey in my 40s and it’s a family trait to go gray early. So, I did color my hair since this age. I did it myself because the hairdresser is about 45 minutes from my house and I could not bear spending much time to have it done professionally. I don’t like dyes my hair, but it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise I will look very old, I think. My hair grows very quickly so I have to dye it every three weeks. It’s so bad, but it’s a “price” that I have to pay to look younger, I think...
By the way, I love this post!

margalit said...

I used to dye my hair, but it was expensive and I was spending way too much time in the salon when I could be doing something more valuable. So I stopped about a year ago. I just went cold turkey. My hair is fairly long, at least 1/2 way down my back. As a rule I wear it back in a pony tail. At this time, my hair up to the low ponytail is grey, and the pony tail itself is brown with a smidge of red. I've got at least 6 more inches to grow it out before I cut off all the brown.

Now, when you look at me had on, I've got gray hair, but from the back, it's brown. And I don't give a shit. :-)

Michele sent me.

Joy said...

I dyed my hair recreationally for a long time and then because of the gray. I'm 62 now and have had silver hair for around 6 years, I think. I had to ease into it by having my hairdresser lighten it first and then have streaks and then gradually letting it be more and more gray until no more dying it. This took about 2 years. I like my hair this way and have all kinds of compliments on it. If the color hadn't looked OK, I would have gone back to the blondish streaking look that was reverse frosting.

Joy said...

That two and more-toned calico cat look can be avoided. It's wonderful not to worry about roots and the expense of coloring.

Shelli said...

I absolutely dye my hair. I am 38 and I don't want anyone to see my grey! I dyed it before I started turning grey, but had stopped several years in between. I will not stop dying it until I am too old or too addled to know the difference.

TeaMouse said...

I am finding this post quite late, I'm not sure what you decided to do, but I am currently in the situation of two toned hair. I'm 38 and I have decided to let it grow out - the last few times I coloured my hair I had bad reactions to the dye and ended up with a bad scalp condition that has only cleared up from not coloring my hair.

My hairdresser saw me the other day and made a horrible face when I told her I was growing it out - like I had said I was part alien or something.